Windom to assess new arena project
Windom -- A committee has been formed to study and develop a recommendation for a new Windom arena to be presented to the city council.
The city of Windom is currently in the process of asking the Minnesota Legislature to waive the normal process for approving a proposed local option sales tax that would fund the new arena. City Administrator Steve Nasby said the legislation has been drafted and is currently pending introduction.
"Both Representative (Rod) Hamilton and Senator (Bill) Weber are looking at the bill and we believe that in the next day or two, the bill will get introduced," Nasby said.
Meanwhile, Windom is moving forward with drafting plans in the event that the legislation is approved, A new or renovated arena is one component of what's being considered.
"(The arena) came about because we've talked about instituting a local option sales tax to fund some of our capital projects that we've been looking at," Windom Mayor Corey Maricle said. "Right now, the project is in the exploratory phase. Maricle said he believes a recommendation won't be ready for the city council until "late 2013 or very early in 2014."
The committee, made up of volunteers from eight Windom groups with stakes in a potential arena project, was formed at the end of February and will start meeting this month. It will explore Windom's options for an ice arena and decide if it would be better to renovate the existing facility or build a new one -- "or possibly do nothing," Maricle said. "Just because they bring a recommendation to the council doesn't mean that's what we'll do, either," Maricle added. "We're looking for a new site if we do decide to build a new arena and looking at the cost for that and renovation costs and weighing all of those options, along with trying to make sure it's user friendly for all groups."
The current arena is subsidized with more than $180,000 annually from the city of Windom, and Maricle said reducing that cost is the primary factor in considering a new or renovated building.
"Depending on the costs, we hope that one thing that will happen is cost-saving in the long run with efficiency with a new or renovated arena," he said.
Additionally, the city is hoping with an updated rink, it will be able to draw more hockey tournaments to town.
Maricle said the city plans to try to keep all of the other activities currently at the arena, including a batting cage, horse shows, an archery range and wallyball (a version of volleyball).
"Those are things the committee will have to come back to the city council with and decide the best way to make all of those groups happy," Maricle said.
The new arena is one of four primary projects that were proposed in conjunction with the city sales tax.
Other projects being considered for funding include a new or renovated fire hall, an EDA revolving loan fund for businesses interested in coming to Windom and a capital equipment fund for replacing city vehicles. Maricle said a process similar to the one being undertaken for the arena has already been completed for the fire hall.
The number of projects to be funded by a local option sales tax is yet to be determined. Maricle said it would "depend on the cost of the fire hall or the costs of updating or building a new area. We don't know those numbers, so we can't look at what we can and can't fund yet."
The current 50,000 square-foot arena was built in 1975 and was one of the first indoor ice facilities in southwestern Minnesota. The building houses two ice rinks - the first 85 feet by 200 feet with seating for 1,100, and the second 45 feet by 165 feet and installed in 2006.
Youth hockey games and tournaments, figure skating lessons, ice shows, broomball and open skating are hosted in the arena from November through March. Horse shows, auto shows, auctions and county fair events take place in the summer months.
Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322.